Recently our editors set out to find the best digital-to-high quality print solution on the market. Although the quality of prints all seemed pretty good, Wal-Mart was the hands-down winner when it came to price: for just $.29, users can walk away with a 4x6 print. You'll be greeted at any store location by two different kiosks: Kodak's, and Wal-Mart's Digital Processing Center (by Fuji).

The two kiosk systems are different technologies with different purposes. To get to the heart of Wal-Mart's use of kiosk technology for photofinishing, we sat down with Christie Gallagher, a spokesperson for the largest retailer in the world.

KIOSK: Wal-Mart had been using the Kodak Picture Maker for some time. How and why did you decide to create your own branded solution to meet the demand for self-service digital photo processing in your stores?

GALLAGHER: The Kodak Picture Maker continues to be a strong part of our photo business. Since Wal-Mart and Sam's Club have upgraded all of our locations to have the newest G3 Picture Maker, we can now print pictures from pictures, digital media cards of all types, and CDs in just minutes. The Digital Processing Center kiosk is a different piece of equipment that Wal-Mart and Fuji Photo Film designed together to provide our customers a way to make and create their pictures themselves, similar to what they were used to doing with the Kodak Picture Maker.

The difference is that instead of having the photos produced within the kiosk on a self-contained printer, the orders are sent to our one-hour processing equipment behind the counter, and printed on high quality photographic paper. Wal-Mart and Sam's Club are strong names in the photo business, and our customers have come to trust that we will produce high quality pictures for them at the lowest possible price.

KIOSK: A key to making any kiosk program successful is the post-deployment marketing campaign. Wal-Mart has been initiating national spot television advertising to support and raise awareness for this system. How has this impacted use of the system?

start quoteIn fact, they are so successful, that we have had to install multiple units in a number of locations across the country to provide better service to our customers.end quote

-- Christie Gallagher

GALLAGHER: With any new service or product, it is important to raise the awareness for our customers not only to know about it, but understand and trust the company that is offering it. In addition to the national television spots, we also have in-store television spots, handouts, order inserts, buttons, stickers and many other items to promote the service. Together, they make a real impact on the customer.

KIOSK: When did you first begin using the Wal-Mart Digital Processing Center, and how has this technology been working for Wal-Mart?

GALLAGHER: Wal-Mart and Sam's Club began using the Digital Kiosks in 2002, when they were introduced. Since then, we have worked with our supplier to make a number of updates on software and hardware, and will continue to do so. Our customers tell us what they want to see on the systems, and we make every attempt to provide the necessary updates to accommodate them. Of course, we also try to stay ahead of the technology out there, and ensure that we have our systems ready for new media types, etc. The kiosks are extremely successful for us. In fact, they are so successful, that we have had to install multiple units in a number of locations across the country to provide better service to our customers.

KIOSK: Do you believe this system has reduced customer lines?

GALLAGHER: At Wal-Mart, we are constantly looking to reduce the customer waiting time to either drop off or pick up an order at the counter. The kiosks have done a good job allowing the customers to get their order sent to our one-hour processing equipment, giving them time to get their shopping done. This helps our company keep the focus of the "one-stop-shopping experience." In addition, our customers can go onto the Walmart.com or Samsclub.com sites and upload their pictures, have them printed and pick them up in two days at our stores or clubs.

KIOSK: How does this system fit into Wal-Mart's business strategy?

GALLAGHER: It's a part of our overall strategy for our business in the future. With digital growing in popularity at a rapid rate, we need to keep up with the customer's demand. We view the digital business the same way we have always viewed the film photo business; excellent quality pictures, with great service at our Every Day Low Price.

KIOSK: Any other thoughts or comments on the Wal-Mart Digital Processing Center kiosk?

GALLAGHER: Wal-Mart, and our suppliers, will continue to look for new, cutting-edge technology to give our customers the best possible photo experience in the industry. With the number of locations we have around the U.S., if we provide the customer what they need for film and digital services, there really is no reason they would need to go anywhere else for their photographic needs.

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